Lunch for $10 or Less: Bobby's Burger Palace

Judging by the crowds lined up on a late Wednesday afternoon at Bobby's Burger Palace at Maryland Live Casino, celebrity chef Bobby Flay has hit the jackpot again.

Bobby's Burger Palace is Flay's entry in the international burger sweepstakes. Flay's concept competes in the fast-casual category, which is a step up from fast-food in both quality and service. Or it ought to be anyway: Your burger costs more at BBP than it does at McDonald's.

The BBP burger delivers on all counts. Everything about the customer experience has been given considered attention, beginning with the presentation of the menu. If you've ever reached a counter still confused about your options, you'll appreciate how straightforward this menu is.

The dining area is fresh, upbeat and colorful. It's very well tended, too. As soon as you're seated, a staff member sets you up with flatware and a napkin. And when, you're finished, someone comes along to clear your plate.

Typically, when a place nails down some details, it nails down all of them. And the attention to detail at BBP extends to the burgers themselves. The burgers are not going to compete with Baltimore's best bistro burgers, but they're well handled from start to finish. The meat has been seasoned — although it could use some more — the cheese has been melted, and the bun has been toasted. All of this adds up.

There are other pluses. You have more temperature choices at BBP — everything from rare, which is almost unheard of, to well done. And there are variety and interest in the specialty preparations, which have been inspired by Flay's love of regional cooking. The Dallas Burger is spice-crusted and topped with coleslaw and Monterey Jack. The Napa Valley Burger gets a dollop of creamy goat cheese, watercress and a Meyer lemon honey mustard.

The specialty burgers are $7.75 but the basic burger is $6.75, so you can keep your meal under $10 even with a $3 side of the hot crispy fries — a better choice than the beer battered onion rings, which don't get crunchy enough. Don't feel too bad about passing up a $5 milkshake, which should deliver more a "real milkshake" wallop than it does. (And mango should not be a flavor.)

There is a gimmick worth noting — any burger can be "crunchified." Flay apparently loved to smush potato chips on his childhood hamburgers. Now his customers can do it too, at no extra cost.

Also worth mentioning. Bobby's Burger Palace serves alcohol — spiked milkshakes are a specialty. Bottles of beer are $4.50, which isn't bad for a casino setting. You don't have to enter the casino floor to get into BBP, but you do have a nice view of the action from your stool.

Bobby's Burger Palace

Where: 7002 Arundel Mills Circle, Hanover

Contact: 443-661-4147

Hours: Open daily for lunch and dinner

Lunch entrees: $6.75-$8.50

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